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The Cablemodem Webserver Solution

Never has it been easier and cheaper to host your own cablemodem webserver.  Cable companies aren't big on giving out this information, since they say "we don't support home networks."  They may not support them, but at least where I live, they don't prohibit them.  What this means is, along with receiving very fast cablemodem access for your PC, you can host your own webserver, for the price of the former (for me, that's $32/month for what peaks out at 650K/sec or better).  I had been looking into a co-location situation (about $100/month) and the cost of an ISP with sufficient harddrive space (at least one gigabyte; about $300/month) and found these to be too much to pay, without the benefits of easy transfers from my non-linear editor computer to the server.  When I finish with my Adobe Premiere video, I can transfer it to my server without delay (at 10 or 100mb/sec).

Here's "The Cablemodem Webserver Solution":

  1.  Acquire cablemodem access through your local cable company and get your computer working with it; (for me, $32/month over my normal cable TV bill).  Get it working with their support help. Then do the following, without telling your cablemodem company what you're up to.
  2. Acquire a Linksys cablemodem router and download and install the latest firmware from the Linksys site.  The cheaper one comes with one network port and costs about $130. You can spend an extra $40 and get one with four ports, which is probably not a bad idea, since you will probably need a small four-port network hub anyway ($50 or less) if you are going to use more than one computer with your Linksys router. (It acts as a firewall, too.)  Buying the four-port Linksys router will save you the cost of a cross-over cable or regular Cat 5 network cable (aprox. $10 or less), too.  You put the Linksys router between the cablemodem and your network. Get that working with the computer(s) on your system.
  3. Contact http://www.tzo.com and acquire a 30-day test URL, (like http://yourchosenname.tzo.com ). They can issue you one within 10 minutes, if you have an e-mail address where they can send the key.  You need TZO to re-route web traffic from their DSN point to your home server.  They have a cool program that wakes up every 10 minutes to see if your cable company has changed the IP address of your cablemodem. Cable companies can do that at any time, if they choose to.  TZO's service assures that your system will be accessible if they change it on you.  I have noticed that my cable company hasn't changed my IP address at all.  It's good insurance, though, and I recommend that you get it.  After 30 days, you can pay TZO the going rate (currently, about $25 for the year) or more (currently $65/year - check their prices) if you want them to re-route a legitimate URL address instead of the one above. They can forward http://www.yourchosenname.com , which looks more professional.  If your cable provider gets savvy, they may try to block your ports (like 80, for http).  TZO has a service to get past that, too, albeit for a reasonable amount more per year, if you should ever need it.  If your site gets very popular, I recommend going to the next step and co-locating your server where it has quicker Internet backbone connection and throughput.  But, for the meantime, get it running for peanuts.
  4. You will need to configure your Linksys router to "forward" incoming port 80 requests and (a few others, depending upon whether you will allow FTP access or are hosting e-mail) to whatever the IP address is of the NIC card that is installed in the computer you are using as your server (for that function; yes you can have more than one server, one for web pages, one for e-mail, etc.).  The Linksys router is easy to work with.  Make sure you download the latest firmware and install it to make sure you are current.  In my home, two workstations use the cablemodem line, using the above configuration.   It was necessary that I disable the DHCP server capabilities on the Linksys router.  It was also necessary that I assign a specific IP address to each computer on my system.  This was an important hurdle, because when the computers are turned off and then back on, I don't want a random internal IP address assigned to my server box (that's what a DHCP server generates).  For the Linksys router to work with TZO, it has to forward it a non-random pre-determined IP address. 
  5. I use http://www.zonelabs.com ZoneAlarm firewall software on each system on our network. Even though the Linksys router has a firewall, when you forward requests to a particular computer, you need to make sure that ZoneAlarm (or whatever software fiirewall program that you are running) allows for those ports to be open.  (Only open the ones you need.) I had to tell ZoneAlarm to allow port 80 to be open, so that it would allow HTTP (server) traffic.
  6. The next thing you need is server software.  FREE is always nice.  I used http://www.analogx.com 's free SimpleServer software.  It's small, downloads and installs easily, and is a snap to use.  It asks for the name of the file to use when http requests come in.  I pointed it to a specific file on a fast harddrive, and that's all it took.  With a little effort, you can get it to load when your system comes up.   Both the TZO background program (that reports your current IP address to their re-routing DNS server) and the SimpleServer server program come up on boot-up, making the box easy to administer, in the advent of a power-failure (this is California).  http://www.xitami.com provides FREE server software too, and runs on a lot more systems, than just Windows 98.  Check out http://www.tzo.com for their recommended server software choices, as well as alternatives to Linksys (they have a couple).   The Analogx.com SimpleServer software is simple and allows .MPG and other video files to be streamed easily and is "multi-threaded," so as to allow multiple simultaneous requests. The Xitami product is mult-threaded, too.  The SimpleServer product works nicely in the background.  If my harddrive starts crunching, I look at the ZoneAlarm front page and see that Internet traffic is happening and it's not some phantom program working in the background (which is not uncommon in a Windows 98 environment).
  7. Make sure that your webserver computer is well backed up before allowing hackers "a go at it."  Also, install the newest server versions, which will have fixes for hacker holes. 

That's it. Inexpensive serving, using your already-paid-for cablemodem connection.  If you ever thought of hosting video content (which can take up tons of harddrive space), it can be very affordable, if you follow the steps above.

Once you have your site running and you want to make your streaming entertainment available to a larger audience, consider posting your domain name as a FREE channel reference on the Surfview Guide (TM) http://www.surfview.com/guide.htm  

You can be a streaming video player with a day's worth of effort - and very little ongoing costs.  Give it a try. TZO makes it easy with their FREE 30-day IP forwarding mechanism.  Put that old computer to use and make it your media server!  Now you have virtually no excuse, except, of course, if your cable operator doesn't offer Internet access over cable.  If they don't,  bug them until they do.

Hope that helps.  

James E. Tessier
Surfview.com editor


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